The future oversight of policing in North Grenville, normally the mandate of the Police Services Board, is a source of concern, following the passing of the Safer Ontario Act last year. First introduced by the previous Liberal Government in 2017, it received royal assent in March of 2018, and was scheduled to come into force next January. The legislation was actually an omnibus Act, containing six separate pieces: The Coroner’s Act, Forensic Laboratory Act, Missing Person’s Act, Oversight Act, First Nations Policing Act, and Police Services Act.
It is the last one of these – the Police Services Act – which is the source of concern, according to North Grenville Police Services Board Chair, Don Sherritt. The Board’s activities include the establishment, after consultation with the detachment commander, generally determine local objectives and priorities for police services in North Grenville. It also is responsible for monitoring the performance of the Detachment Commander, overseeing the contract between the Municipality and the OPP to ensure that police services are provided in an effective and efficient manner, receiving monthly performance statistics of crime and prevention initiatives. The Board also, participates in the selection of the detachment commander.
The role of the Board, therefore, is central to the provision and supervision of police services in the municipality, but Don and NG CAO, Brian Carré, felt obliged to go to Toronto and make presentations to the Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services last year. The new Police Services Act raised the possibility that a reorganisation of Boards under the Act could see the NG Board folded into a large body that would oversee policing on a more regional, or county, basis.
The Act left it unclear as to how any such Board would be appointed, how much input NG would have on police costs and operations, and how NG would be represented on a larger Board in terms of numbers. At present the Board consists of five members: two members of the North Grenville Council, two citizens appointed by the Province as community representatives, and one citizen appointed by Municipal Council representing the community at large.
Then, over the Christmas holidays, the Conservative Government announced that the scheduled date for implementing the Act was being revoked, and the legislation reviewed over the coming months. This was, as far as is known, provoked by complaints made about the Act by the Police Association of Ontario, the Ontario Provincial Police Association, and the Association of Municipalities of Ontario [AMO], as well as representations made by municipalities, such as North Grenville’s last year. To date, no information or clarification has been forthcoming from the government at Queen’s Park, though a spokesperson indicated that such would be sent to municipalities very soon.
There are numerous questions that need to be answered during this review of the Safer Ontario Act, including whether the current Police Services Board in North Grenville will continue to operate as before; whether they will have the same authority in terms of negotiating OPP service contracts and costs, and oversight of OPP operations. Or will a Board be established to cover a county-wide area, leaving NG with less input, and less influence, over local policing matters.
Another element in the legislation that is causing concern in the Municipal Centre is Part 13, which imposes on municipalities the responsibility of establishing Community Safety and Well-Being Plans. The aim of these Plans, according to the Ministry, is to mandate: “municipalities to work with police services and local service providers in health care, social services and education to develop community safety and well-being plans that proactively address locally identified community risks; and municipal police service boards to participate in the planning led by municipalities, and to consider the community safety and well-being plan when developing their strategic plans”.
This would have to be completed within two years of the Act being implemented, and the municipality would have to establish a committee to draw up the plan, and then “pay the community safety and well-being planner’s remuneration and expenses as set out in the regulations” [204(10)]. The apprehension of Don Sherritt is that the proposals in the Act will weaken the municipality’s ability to have input into policing costs and operations. The concern of others is that this is another example of the Province downloading burdens and costs, while setting the legal framework under which these responsibilities would be imposed. As Don says: We need to keep a close eye on how this legislation is being “reviewed” over the coming months.